THE best way to stay healthy is to eat less,
exercise more, don't follow faddy diets and cut
out drink and tobacco, according to a
19th-century doctor who was struck off for his
This women's gymnastic class in 1905
would have met with the approval of Dr
Allinson – always provided that the
ladies were not wearing corsets – as he
advocated three hours of walking or
other exercise every day for good health
Recently unearthed archives of
Dr Thomas Allinson
show there is nothing new about much of the
modern multi-billion pound health industry.
Yet the GP's essays, first published in 1893,
were so controversial that his own profession
banned him from practising when the General
Medical Council struck him off a year later.
Dr Allinson was appalled that at a time when
Britain was considered the most powerful country
on earth, life expectancy averaged a mere 43
years, and half of all children died before they
He grew up in Manchester and studied in
Edinburgh, but it was when he opened a GP's
surgery in South London he began to notice the
poor quality of life for many ordinary people.
In an age before computer games he was already
encouraging parents to get their children to
play outdoors more often and to take regular
holidays by the coast to take in the fresh air.
He advocated three hours of walking or other
exercise a day, told people not to work too
hard, to cut down salt, eat more fruit and veg,
avoid tea and coffee before bed and to be
But his advice to give up smoking appalled
society, as doctors then regularly recommended
smoking a cigar or cigarette as a way to clear
He was against many medical drugs of the day
which included poisons such as arsenic, mercury
and opiates, and, controversially for the time,
he was vegetarian.
Dr Allinson is probably best recognised today as
the name of the bakery he founded which still
bears his name, but in his day he was a
controversial health guru.
Archivists working for the bakers have
republished, free of charge, a pamphlet
containing his original health guide, plus other
essays on long walks and a number of healthy
He reckoned people in London were the most
unhealthy because they travelled everywhere by
public transport, worked too hard, ate and drank
too much and breathed in polluted air.
In comparison, those from the provinces and
especially "Scotchmen" were healthier "on
account of the vitality they possess, due to
oatmeal, pure air and hard exercise".
As for "young ladies", he suggested they should
not wear corsets and should perhaps consider
joining a local lawn tennis club or get their
brother to join them "for a run on a tandem".
Advice is listed under headings including
smoking, deafness, salt, pimples and blackheads,
baldness, obesity, sleep, poverty and how to
In a rant against tobacco he says: "Nicotine is
a foul poison. It is a filthy habit, wastes
money, brains and time, and as a result gives
foul breath, black teeth and a damaged
Dr Allinson recommended three meals a day and no
snacking, with the last meal at least three
hours before retiring to bed, which he did
around midnight. He also suggested a daily swim,
two to three baths a week, but not to wash hair
more than once every three weeks.
VICTORIAN doctors regularly prescribed meat and
lots of it as a healthy diet – a kind of
Victorian Atkins diet with bacon, joints and
stock in every meal.
The Vegetarian Society was founded in 1847,
however, and grew in strength in the 19th
century. Adherents quoted the Bible saying that
man should not eat flesh, others argued eating
less meat made you less ferocious.
Radicals like English doctor Emmet Desmore,
argued fruits and nuts were the "natural food"
of humans, from the days they lived in warm
climates without tools or fire.
THE controversial, carbohydrate-free Atkins diet
took a hit when television host Oprah Winfrey
returned to eating bread.
A new US trend is the "5-factor" diet embraced
by actress Halle Berry and others. It involves
five meals a day, with five basic components,
taking five minutes to prepare.
Raw-food diets rely on uncooked food, said to
contain more enzymes to aid digestion. The bill
of fare includes raw fruits, vegetables, nuts,
seeds and eggs, while some adherents also eat
raw meat or fish.